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Sony can kill the Xbox One X tonight [Update: but it didn’t]

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The war is going to be over price

PlayStation 4 Pro reveal event - PS4 Pro, Slim, DualShock 4 Samit Sarkar/Polygon

[Update: Sony’s E3 2017 PlayStation press conference is over and ... nary a mention of PS4 Pro, not to mention pricing or adjustments to pricing. There’s always PlayStation Experience.]

Microsoft had a decision to make: Did it want to price the Xbox One X at $499.99 and just say that it had the most powerful console without selling the system in great numbers, or did it want to release the system at $399.99 and get competitive with Sony when it comes to the actual hardware?

The Xbox One X will be $499.99, and that means Sony can go in for the killing blow tonight. That price is a mistake.

The PlayStation 4 Pro is $399.99 at the time of this writing, and Sony can increase the price difference by dropping it to either $349.99 or $299.99, if the company really wants to get nasty. Sony has a history of twisting the knife when Microsoft exposes a vulnerability, and dropping the price of its most powerful console to make the Xbox One X seem even more expensive than it does right now would be an effective strategy.

Sony wants to continue outselling the Xbox, and dropping the price of the PlayStation 4 Pro is an easy way to keep its lead. If there’s a $150 or more difference in price between the Pro and the Xbox One X, the more expensive system doesn’t stand much of a chance to sell in high numbers.

“I think that the price point is too high,” Wedbush Securities' Michael Pachter stated. “Consoles have historically failed at this price point, and consumers seem unwilling to accept anything over $399. The X will have even more trouble, because the S is at $249 and so is the PS4. A consumer could buy both the S and the PS4 for the cost of an X, so it makes it a tough decision for anyone who is budget conscious or constrained. I think it will resonate well with the wealthy few who buy it, but I think it's too expensive.”

You can argue that the Xbox One X is more powerful — and you’d be right! — but it’s tricky to show that difference to players who don’t have a 4K television. There’s no clear, instantly recognizable advantage the Xbox One X provides based on everything we’ve seen so far. Both systems increase the visual fidelity of existing games, and the Xbox One S even delivers a variety of 4K features at a much lower price. Raw power and stats are likely to prove less powerful in the market than price and value, and Microsoft is about to find out the hard way.

Sony may be comfortable in its lead right now, but dropping the price of the PlayStation 4 Pro would be an amazing dunk on Microsoft. We’ll find out in a few hours.